The Red Romance Book, by Andrew Lang

How Don Quixote was Enchanted While Guarding the Castle

In the course of their adventures Don Quixote and his squire found themselves at the door of an inn which they had already visited, where they met with many friends. The hours were passed in pleasant discourse, and in the telling and reading of strange stories; the company parted at night well satisfied with their entertainment.

Don Quixote, however, did not share in these joys, for he was sorely cast down by reason of wounds he had received a few days previously in seeking to right a wrong. So, leaving the remainder of the guests to each other’s society, he threw himself on the bed that had been made for him, and soon fell fast asleep.

The guests below had forgotten all about him, so absorbed were they in the interest of a tale of woeful ending, when the voice of Sancho Panza burst upon their ears.

‘Hasten! hasten! good sirs; hasten and help my master in the hardest battle I have ever seen him fight. By my faith, he has dealt such a blow to the giant that his head he has cut clean off.’

‘What is that you say?’ asked the priest, who was reading out the tale. ‘Are you out of your senses, Sancho?’ But his question was lost in a furious noise from above, in which Don Quixote might be heard crying:

‘Rogue, thief, villain! I have you fast, and little will your sword avail you’; then followed loud blows against the wall.

Don Quixote fighting the wine-skins hanging from the ceiling of the room in the inn

‘Quick, quick! don’t stand there listening, but fly to the aid of my master. Though, indeed, by this time there can be little need, for the giant must be dead already, and will trouble the world no more. For I saw his blood spurt and run all over the floor, and his head is cut off and fallen to one side.’

‘As I am alive,’ exclaimed the innkeeper, ‘I fear that Don Quixote has been fighting with one of the wine-skins that I put to hang near the bed, and it is wine not blood that is spilt on the ground.’ And he ran into the room, followed by the rest, to see what had really happened.

They all stopped short at the sight of Don Quixote, who did, in truth, present a most strange figure. The only garments he had on were a shirt and a little red cap; his legs were bare, and round his left arm was rolled the bed covering, while in the right he held a sword, with which he was cutting and thrusting at everything about him, uttering cries all the while, as if in truth he were engaged in deadly combat with a giant. Yet his eyes were tight shut, and it was clear to all that he was fast asleep; but in his dream he had slashed at so many of the skins that the whole room was full of wine. When the innkeeper perceived this, the loss of his wine so enraged him that he in his turn flew at the knight, and struck him such hard blows with his fists that, had not the priest and another man pulled him off, the war with the giant would soon have ended.

Still, curious to say, it was not until a pannikin of cold water had been poured over him by the barber that Don Quixote awoke, and even then he did not understand what he had been doing, and why he stood there in such a dress.

Now the priest had caught hold of Don Quixote’s hands, so that he should not beat those who were pouring the water over him, and the knight, having only partly come to his senses, took him for the princess, for whose sake he had made war on the giant.

‘Fair and gracious lady,’ he said, falling on his knees, ‘may your life henceforth be freed from the terror of this ill-born creature!’

‘Well, did I not speak truly?’ asked Sancho Panza proudly. ‘Has not my master properly salted the giant? I have got my earldom safe at last.’ For Sancho never ceased to believe in the knight’s promises.

Everyone was driven to laugh at the strange foolery of both master and man, except the innkeeper, whose mind was still sore at the loss of his wine-skins. The priest and the barber first busied themselves in getting Don Quixote, now quite worn out with his adventure, safely into bed, and then went to administer the best consolation they could to the poor man.

Many days passed before Don Quixote was well enough to leave the inn, but at length he seemed to be cured of the fatigue he had undergone during his previous adventures, and had bidden his squire get all things ready for his departure. Maritornes, the servant at the inn, and the innkeeper’s daughter, having overheard the plans of Don Quixote, resolved that he should not leave them before they had played him some merry tricks.

That night, when everyone else had gone to bed, and Don Quixote, armed, and mounted on Rozinante, was keeping guard in front of the inn, the two girls crept up to a loft. Nowhere in the inn was there such a thing as a proper window, but in the loft was a hole through which the knight could be seen, leaning on his lance uttering deep sighs and broken words about the Lady Dulcinea.

The innkeeper’s daughter, falling in with his humour, advanced to the hole, and invited him to draw a little nearer. Nothing more was needed than for Don Quixote to imagine that the damsel was sick of love for him, and he told her straightway that any service he could do her short of proclaiming her his liege lady she might command. Upon this, Maritornes informed him that her mistress would be content were she permitted to kiss his hand, which Don Quixote answered might be done without wrong to the Lady Dulcinea. So, without more ado, he passed it through the hole, when it was instantly seized by Maritornes, who slipped a noose of rope over his wrist, and tied the other end of it tightly to the door of the loft.

After that they both ran off, overflowing with laughter, leaving the knight to reproach them for their ill-usage.

There the poor knight remained, mounted on Rozinante, his arm in the hole and his hand fastened to the door, fearing lest Rozinante should move and he should be left hanging. But in this he did wrong to his horse, who was happy enough to stand still.

Then Don Quixote, seeing himself bound, instead of seeking to unloose himself as many others would have tried to do, sat quietly in his saddle, and dreamed dreams of the enchantment which had befallen him. And thus he stayed till the day dawned.

His dreams were rudely broken into when there drew up at the inn door four men well armed and mounted. As no one answered their knock, they repeated it more loudly, when Don Quixote cried to them:

‘Knights or squires, or whoever you may be, it is not for you to knock at the gates of this castle; for sure, any man might tell that those within are asleep, or else it is their custom not to open until the sun touches the whole floor. You must wait until it is broad day, and then it will be seen whether you can be admitted within the gates.’

‘What sort of castle is this, which receives no guests without such ceremonies?’ mocked one of the men. ‘If you are the innkeeper, bid your servants open to us without delay. We are neither knights nor squires, but honest travellers, who need corn for our horses, and that without delay.’

‘Have I the air of an innkeeper?’ asked Don Quixote loftily.

‘I do not know of what you have the air,’ answered the man, ‘but this I do know, and that is that you are jesting when you call this inn a castle.’

‘But it is a castle,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘and one of the finest in the whole country! And within are those who carry crowns on their heads and sceptres in their hands.’

‘It may well be that inside are players with crowns and sceptres both,’ answered the traveller, ‘for in so small an inn no real kings and their trains would find a place’; and, being weary of talking, he knocked at the door with more violence than before.

Meanwhile, one of the horses had drawn near to Rozinante, wondering what the strange creature could be, of a form like unto his own, but to all outward seeming formed of wood. Rozinante, cheered by the presence of one of his own kind, moved his body a little, which caused Don Quixote to slip from his saddle, and to remain hanging by his arm, though his feet almost touched the ground. The pain of thus being suspended from his arm was so great that, knight though he was, he shrieked in agony, till the people in the inn ran to the doors to see what was the matter.

Maritornes alone, fearing punishment, slipped round another way, and unfastened the cord which bound Don Quixote, who dropped to the ground as the travellers came up, and in answer to their questions mounted Rozinante, and, after riding round the field, reined up suddenly in front of them, crying:

‘Whoever shall proclaim that I have suffered enchantment I give him the lie, and challenge him to meet me in single combat.’

But instead of answering his defiance the guests merely stood and stared at him, till the innkeeper whispered that he was a noble gentleman, a little touched in his wits, so they took no further notice of his words. This so enraged Don Quixote that he was only withheld from fighting them all by remembering that nowhere in the records of chivalry was it lawful to undertake a second adventure before the first had drawn to a good end.

Meanwhile a new strife had begun in the inn, for two of the travellers who had lodged there during the night were found trying to leave the inn without paying their reckoning. But it happened that the landlord detected their purpose and held them fast, upon which the two fellows set on him with blows, till his daughter ran to Don Quixote and implored his help.

‘Beautiful damsel,’ replied the knight slowly, ‘just now I cannot listen to your prayer, for the laws of chivalry forbid my engaging in a fresh adventure. But tell your father to keep his assailants at bay, while I ride to the Princess Micomicona, in whose service I already am, and ask her leave to aid him in his trouble.’

‘And long before your return,’ cried Maritornes, ‘my poor master will be in another world’; but Don Quixote, not heeding her, turned his back, and, falling on his knees before a lady present, begged that she would grant him permission to rescue the lord of the castle.

This being given, the knight braced on his shield and drew his sword, and hastened to the inn door, where the two men were still beating the landlord. But the moment he reached the combatants he stopped and drew back, in spite of the entreaties of Maritornes and of the innkeeper’s wife.

‘It has come into my mind,’ he said, ‘that it is not lawful for me to give battle to any except belted knights. Now there are no knights here, and the task belongs to my squire Sancho, who I will bid to undertake it in my stead.’

So the fight still raged, till at length the men’s arms grew tired, which, Don Quixote seeing, he persuaded them to make peace, and the two guests to pay the sum which they rightly owed the landlord.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57